Program Evaluation in Church Context: Forerunner to Effective Church Consulting
By Dr. Christson A. Adedoyin, MSW, PhD November 17, 2020
The need for Church consultants is on the rise because of the uncertainties of ministry in the current dispensation of COVID-19. Many Churches and faith-based organizations (FBOs) are facing unprecedented and out-of-the-text-book types of challenges that defy best practices and known evidence-based ministry interventions. Accordingly, there is a desperate need for churches and FBOs to reach out to Church consultants for novel and divinely inspired interventions to stem declining membership, financial insolvency, membership apathy, and overall discouragement in Churches that characterize the current landscape of COVID-19.
Despite the readiness of Church consultants to step-in crisis situations when called upon, an inescapable reality of Church consulting is the use of church, or FBO data for evaluating the situation before strategies, interventions, or new course of action can be proposed, or recommended for a distressed church or FBO. It is against these backdrop that Churches and FBOs should be evaluable, or be positioned for program evaluation for any meaningful Church consultation. Undoubtedly, all Church programs and activities can be evaluated at designated periods, or intervals to assess their effectiveness, efficiencies, and transformative impact.
Biblical or Theological Foundation of (Program) Evaluation
The Scripture is replete with many instance of personal, or corporate evaluation. For example, Jesus Christ called his disciples for an evaluative process after sending them out for an evangelistic outreach in Luke 10:1-24. The evaluative process and feedback in this passage is in verses 17-21 when our Lord Jesus Christ not only rejoiced in the Spirit, but commended the seventy disciples for a job well-done. Another Scripture that underscores evaluation is the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and the parable of the final judgment (Matthew 25: 31-46).
A similar Scripture that underlines regular evaluation as part of our ministry and personal life is in Luke 13:6-9. In addition, Apostle Paul enjoined us to regular examine ourselves if we are still in the faith as stated in 2 Corinthians 13:5. “Examine and test and evaluate your own selves to see whether you are holding to your faith and showing the proper fruits of it.” (AMPC Version).It is therefore, a theological and biblical imperative for Churches and FBOs to regularly evaluate their programs either internally, or externally-through a church consultant.
Program evaluation is broadly concerned with the process of systematically gathering data to aid decision-making by stakeholders (in this case-Churches) with consideration given to the evaluand’s value (intrinsic and extrinsic), competing resources, and political, or organizational contexts (Mertens & Wilson, 2012). In the Church and Church consulting context, program evaluation is the deliberate design of Church programs with the view to methodologically, and periodically collecting (ministry/program related) data for monitoring, analyzing, assessing or evaluating (for example) evangelistic outreaches, discipleship programs, prayer meetings, and other fellowship activities.
Program evaluation is also heavily influenced by the evaluand’s perception of the merit and worth of the program, or project (Mertens &Wilson, 2012). Contextually, Churches (and their programs) are the evaluand, and the perception of merit and worth accorded ministry activities will determine the premium placed on conducting regular ministry, Church, or FBO evaluation.
Importance of Program Evaluation in Church and Church Consulting Contexts
Some salient concepts in program evaluation that is contextualizable or applicable to Church programs and Church consulting are formative (or process) and summative (outcome) evaluations which simply are steps in evaluating a program in the different phases of its life-cycle. Formative or process evaluation in the Church context is focused on the deliberately building data collection systems into the implementation (or beginning) phase of a new ministry initiative, program or project, with a view to using the data to improve, or ensure the program is designed as scriptural or missionally intended. On the other hand, summative evaluation in the ministry or Church context is assessing or evaluating a ministry program relative to the intended or desired outcome at the end or conclusion of a program.
Summarily, program evaluation in Church or ministry context is therefore, vital for decision making and has multidimensional benefits such as assessment, resource allocation, planning, monitoring, communicating, and evaluating the efficacy of ministry programs, fellowship groups, church projects, ministry policies, and missional initiatives. Having a program evaluation mindset is an indispensable framework for not only Churches and FBOs, but a vital toolkit for Church consultants.
Mertens, D. M., & Wilson, A. T. (2012). Program Evaluation Theory and Practice.
New York, NY: The Guilford Press.